How Will Coronavirus Impact Immigration to the UK

How Will Coronavirus Impact Immigration to the UK

Whether you believe that Coronavirus (formally referred to as COVID-19) is the next incarnation of the Spanish Flu, which killed millions in 1918, or a story heavily exaggerated by the media, it is likely there will be a number of consequences for those intending to come to the UK in the next few months.  If you are currently in the process of applying for a Visa to join family, get married, visit, work, set up a start-up business, or perform, or for any other reason, you may have concerns regarding your ability to enter the UK and your health and well-being while here.

Are there any restrictions on people entering the UK due to COVID-19?

At present, the UK Government are not placing restrictions on people entering the UK in relation to Coronavirus. British Airways and Ryanair have cancelled hundreds of flights partly due to reduced demand and also to prevent the spread of coronavirus.  Ryanair is cancelling a quarter of its flights in and out of Italy from mid-March, and BA plans to cancel flights from London to destinations including New York, Italy, France, Austria, Belgium, Germany and Ireland.

It is highly likely that the UK will move to implement inbound travel restrictions in the near future.  Several countries have already implemented such policies, including Australia, Bahamas, many Caribbean islands, India, Indonesia, Madagascar, Maldives, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Turkey, USA and Vietnam, which all have blanket bans for those who have travelled to or transited through China recently.

What is the UK Government's advice for those arriving in the UK from affected areas?

The Government have outlined guidance for two categories of arrivals from affected areas:

  • Category 1: Travellers should self-isolate, even if asymptomatic, and call NHS 111 to inform of recent travel. Go home or to your destination and then self-isolate.
  • Category 2: Travellers do not need to undertake any special measures, but if they develop symptoms they should self-isolate and call NHS 111.

Category 1 includes anyone who has arrived in the UK from Wuhan city and Hubei Province, Iran, Daegu or Cheongdo (Republic of Korea), some northern Italian towns.  

Category 2 includes individuals from Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, Northern Italy, Japan, Laos, Macau, Malaysia, Republic of Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam.

What about those affected by travel restrictions in China?

Automatic visa extensions for some Chinese nationals

Many Chinese nationals who are present in the UK may be concerned about what will happen if their Visa expires while they are subject to travel restrictions.  The UK Government have stated that Visas which expire between 24 January 2020 and 30 March 2020 will be automatically extended to the end of March 2020.  In addition, for those on a long-term standard visitor visa of 2, 5 or 10 years who are about to reach the maximum stay of 180 days between 24 January 2020 and 30 March 2020 will also receive the same automatic extension.

Closure of Visa Application Centres in China

All Visa Application Centres (VAC) are currently closed in China due to COVID-19.  If you are a British national in China requiring a passport, you can apply for an emergency travel document.  If you are not a British national but your passport is currently held in a VAC, you can email VFS Global directly who will assist you.

Chinese nationals switching from a Tier 2 (Intra-Company) Visa to a Tier 2 (General) Visa

Coronavirus is also imposing difficulties for those who need to return to China to convert their Tier 2 Visa from the intra-company category to the general category (which provides a route to settlement in the UK).  The Home Office has offered the following reassurance:
If you are a Chinese national in the UK on a Tier 2 Intra-Company Transfer visa and want to switch to a Tier 2 General visa you normally need to return to China to make your application.  You can exceptionally apply to switch from a Tier 2 Intra-Company Transfer to a Tier 2 General visa from within the UK if your visa has an expiry date between 24 January 2020 and 30 March 2020.  You will still need to pay the relevant fee and meet all the requirements of a Tier 2 General visa, other than the requirement that you usually have to apply in China.

New Home Office Coronavirus immigration helpline

For those with concerns regarding their immigration status due to Coronavirus, the UK Home Office has set up a free helpline which can be contacted at:
0800 678 1767 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm)

All non-Coronavirus immigration enquiries should be directed to the general immigration helpline - 0300 123 2241.

What should I do if I feel unwell while in the UK?

Symptoms of COVID-19 include:

  • a cough
  • high temperature
  • shortness of breath

Having these symptoms does not mean you have Coronavirus; rather you may have the common cold or flu.

The NHS has an information page on their website to assist anyone concerned that they or a family member may have Coronavirus.

If you are currently in the UK on an immigration Visa of any type and are feeling unwell, it is imperative that you do not go to a hospital or GP due to the risk of spread.  Instead, contact the NHS helpline on 111 who will be able to assist you.  Based on your symptoms, you may be advised from 111 to self-isolate.  According to the NHS, self-isolation means:

  • staying at home
  • not go to work, school or public places,
  • not using public transport or taxis
  • asking friends, family members or delivery services to do errands for you
  • where possible, avoiding visitors to your home - it's OK for friends, family or delivery drivers to drop off food

Self-isolation may be required for around two weeks to minimise the potential of spreading the virus within your community and family.

We will continue to keep you updated on any immigration changes as a result of Coronavirus.  In the meantime, take sensible precautions and heed any official advice provided.

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